Universal Metonymy

Crown can mean both the object on a ruler’s head and the ruler itself.
School can mean both an institution and a building where education takes place.
Fur can mean both the hairy skin of animals and a coat made out of it.
The two meanings of crown, school, and fur are said to be in a relationship of metonymy.

A very old question in cognitive linguistics is whether metonymy is a universal phenomenon or is it culture- or language-dependent?

Using lexical data from the Universal Knowledge Core, we have carried out large-scale research over hundreds of languages to find evidence for or against the universality of metonymy, and in order to gain more insight into its behaviour in different languages.

Our research, which to our knowledge is so far the broadest on this topic, has upheld existing hypotheses of universality. It has also provided a thorough analysis of individual metonymy patterns (e.g. institution-for-building, animal-for-skin), and has exposed how certain languages represent metonymy on the lexical level, while other languages prefer to use morphology to express it.

A byproduct of our research is a set of 20 thousand formal metonymy relationships automatically extracted from UKC data, over 189 languages. The metonymy data can be browsed on the UKC website and also downloaded from here.

The research is described in our CogSci publication below. Please cite it if you use our data in any way:

Temuulen Khishigsuren, Gábor Bella, Khuyagbaatar Batsuren, Daariimaa Marav, and Fausto Giunchiglia. Metonymy as a Universal Cognitive Phenomenon: Evidence from Multilingual Lexicons. CogSci 2022, Toronto, Canada.